10 Truths About Teaching You Won’t Learn in College
You will almost pee your pants.
More than once. One of my students asked me, “Mrs. Richards, we get to go to the bathroom whenever we want. When do you get to pee?” Good question. You get to go to the bathroom in a frantic haste between making copies, doing recess duty, calling parents and listening to a student tell you for the tenth time that their cat Nibbles pooped on their pillow… and when you finally get to go pee, you’re shoveling down something unhealthy to tide your body over until the days end while flushing the toilet. Nobody tells you that peeing is a luxury when you are a teacher.
You will never have enough money.
The first thing I did when I got the keys to my classroom was look up classroom decorations on Pinterest. After all of the excitement and the time consuming decision of what theme I wanted for my classroom I realized I’m too poor for all of this. You will unfortunately have to provide a lot of supplies for your classroom and will quickly learn the difference between dollar store pencils and Ticonderoga pencils, cheap glue sticks and Elmer’s glue sticks, and countless other supplies. Even once you get your classroom decorated and enough supplies, you will find this super fun lesson about sound energy and will end up spending $100 on tuning forks for your class.
You will laugh.
Every day. From receiving a single piece of candy with no wrapper as a gift, spelling mistakes – “I want to be a niga (ninja) when I grow up,” ridiculous things said at staff meetings, student wit, and watching a kindergartener try to kick a ball, you will laugh every single day.
You will never catch up.
Among the lesson planning, parent/teacher conferences, staff meetings, PLCs, IEPs, observations, grading, and networking you will never catch up. The moment you think you’ve caught up, you’ll remember something else; and when all you have left to do is make copies, the machine will jam. Don’t worry, you’ll learn to prioritize; as well as improvise.
You will gag.
Can you handle the projectile puke into the community crayon bucket? What about green snot that is repeatedly sucked back into Timmy’s nose while he licks his upper lip during guided reading? At the end of a day my first year of teaching, a few of my students were giggling by a student’s desk. I gathered through the giggles that there may or may not be a lizard in that desk. Low and behold there was a lizard in there. A dead lizard. Not just a dead lizard, but a dead lizard with a hole through its stomach… from a pencil. In bewilderment I asked what it was doing in there and why did it have a hole poked through its stomach. The student proudly told me that he caught it at the bus stop and had plans to make a “cool” necklace out of it. Your gag reflex will get better. Trust me.
You will cry in the closet.
Well maybe not in the closet per se, but you will cry. A few days into the school year, my Principal came into my room afterschool and found me crying… in the closet. I was so overwhelmed with so many emotions! Come to find out, I’m not the only teacher who has been found in the same state, and believe it or not she was in the closet too.
You will compare yourself to others.
The first thing you will notice and work on is classroom decorations. You will admire those Pinterest classrooms and the veteran teacher’s beautiful polka dot themed room that all the parents talk about. I am here to tell you that what your classroom looks like doesn’t mean shit. I worked hard to decorate my classroom my first year to be the most coordinated and welcoming room I could imagine, but when it came to management and learning, those cute chevron borders and matching paper lanterns did not help one bit.
You will also hear about awesome lessons that Mrs. Becker does, see parent volunteers always flocking to Mr. Jones’ class every Thursday and the glorious spreadsheet showcasing the pure success of third grade on their standardized tests. You are only as successful as the help you actively seek. Ask for help. Don’t be shy. Ask for help. Take the parts that you need, adapt it, give it some of your super personality, reflect and fine tune. You got this! Don’t worry about that other teacher. No one else can be you. Your students are lucky to have YOU.
You will fall asleep with your shoes on.
You will be exhausted. Teachers work long days and are multitasking through the day’s entirety. As you stumble through the door carrying ten pounds of work that needs to be done by tomorrow, you will plop yourself on the couch and inevitably be found by your spouse passed out with work on the floor and your shoes still on. You may even still have your purse on your shoulder. True story.
College didn’t prepare you for this shit!
It’s a lot like having a baby. It doesn’t matter how many books you read or classes you take; until you are experiencing it, you have no idea. My college mentor called me a year after I graduated and asked me how things were going. My exact response was, “College didn’t prepare me for this shit!” Even once you are teaching, today’s experience is not going to prepare you for the experience you will have tomorrow. You will learn to be more flexible and adapt to different situations, from crazy parent accusations to projectile vomit nearly splattering on the face of another student. Mind you, this is all along side standardized testing, IEPs, observations, behavioral issues and unfunded state mandates, among many, many other things they “failed to mention” in your college classes.
You will fall in love with your job.
Day in and day out will be grueling. Over time you will fall in love with your job. I no longer see myself as going to work; I go to school. I don’t have a job; I have a passion. A passion for learning. A passion for teaching. A passion for those young minds and kind smiles. Teaching is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Believe me, it kicks your ass, but at least your ass is getting kicked in the right direction with 25 smiling faces looking to you to help them change our world.